DOJ wants internet service providers to track customer web activity

Brett Michael Dykes
National Affairs Reporter
The Lookout

Big Brother alert! The Department of Justice says that investigations "are being frustrated" because officials aren't able to monitor online activity within the United States--and so the agency plans to lobby Congress for new legislation to expand its investigative reach online. Justice officials hope that lawmakers will approve a bill to force internet service providers to keep extensive records on the web activity of their subscribers.

CNET's Declan McCullagh obtained a copy of a memo outlining the Justice Department's position on such matters, details that are expected to be announced on Thursday at a House hearing.

Reports McCullagh:

The Bush Justice Department endorsed such proposals under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Tomorrow's announcement demonstrates that the Obama Justice Department is following suit and appears to be its first public statement embracing mandatory data retention.

That aligns the Justice Department with data retention's more aggressive supporters among House Republicans and places it at odds with privacy advocates, civil libertarians, and the Internet industry. Those groups have questioned the privacy, liability, cost, and scope, including whether businesses such as coffee shops would be required to identify and monitor whoever uses their wireless connections.

Internet privacy advocates and internet service providers are already pushing back against the proposal. Opponents argue that such a mandate would not only impinge on user privacy rights; by making  internet access costlier, it would also exacerbate the so-called digital divide that walls off online access for poorer citizens.

(Photo via Getty/Thomas Jackson)